CLEVELAND -- Under Major League Baseball’s new player development structure, the Indians have extended invitations to four of their Minor League clubs to officially become Cleveland's affiliates beginning in the 2021 season.
The Triple-A Columbus Clippers and Double-A Akron Rubberducks have been invited to remain as those affiliates for the Tribe, while the Lake County Captains have been asked to serve as the Class A Advanced club and the Lynchburg Hillcats have been invited to be the Indians’ Class A team.
“I think the hope is that we can maybe grow a little bit more efficient in player development,” Indians president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti said last week. “And then also [it's] as important to make sure that we're providing the best developmental environment for the players that are within our Minor League system, and hopefully, the new framework allows us to do that."
The biggest changes in the Tribe’s system would be the jump of Lake County from Class A to Class A Advanced; Lynchburg, Va., dropping from Class A Advanced to Class A; and the elimination of the Mahoning Valley Scrappers. However, there will still be baseball in Mahoning Valley.
Major League Baseball announced last week that the Scrappers would become one of five teams (with hopes of adding a sixth) to form a Draft League, which will become the first league in the country focused on top prospects who are eligible to be drafted by MLB clubs that summer.
That leaves the Tribe -- and all other Major League teams -- with four Minor League affiliates. The Clippers have been affiliated with the Indians since 2009, the Rubberducks since 1997, the Captains since 2003 and the Hillcats since 2015.
The Indians will now have their Class A Advanced team just down the road at Lake County and their top three affiliates within the state of Ohio, which will continue to make it simple for the front office to be able to check in on its prospects, along with the luxury of being able to make last-minute roster promotions.
“Our responsibility is to take the system that's in place and do the best we can with it,” Antonetti said. “So we'll now adjust to the new Minor League system and find a way to succeed with a smaller Minor League footprint.”